USG offers free app for mindfulness

Junyi Li | Daily Trojan

The Undergraduate Student Government recently partnered with Calm, a meditation and mindfulness app intended to help users reduce stress and anxiety in their daily lives.

The partnership hopes to combat the rise in student stress levels as the semester progresses by improving the accessibility of mental health tools, placing them in students’ pockets.

With daily meditations, sleep stories and relaxing music, Calm aims to improve students’ focus and mindfulness.

USC was chosen as one of the schools whose students and faculty would receive the app for free, as opposed to paying the $60 subscription fee, when signing up with their USC email. Other schools in the partnership include Harvard University, Princeton University and University of Notre Dame.

Over the  summer, USG Senator Buck Andrews worked with the creators of Calm to bring the app to USC.

“It’s a prestigious program, we’re really excited to be a part of it,” Andrews said. “Calm is an excellent resource for people to daily take care of themselves and work on their stressors and really love themselves.”

Andrews began using Calm while studying abroad in Italy and was fascinated by the app’s features.

“[I] really found mindfulness to be something that was so important and something that I didn’t value prior to Calm,” Andrews said.

Mindfulness is a practice that can be overlooked by students in their busy lives, said Allen Weiss, the co-chair of Mindful USC. Weiss defines mindfulness as the “ability to pay attention to what is going on in the present moment.”

According to Weiss, mindfulness helps improve students’ ability to react to stressful situations in less extreme ways.

“Mindfulness helps calm down the emotions,” Weiss said. “When people actually learn the practice … it lowers their anxiety and stress in all sorts of different ways.”

Calm offers a variety of meditation options, from beginner sessions to more advanced options that focus on anxiety and personal growth. The app also includes stories to help users sleep as well as music for focusing and relaxation.

“Stress is how our body responds to demands placed in our lives,” said Yong Park, a staff psychologist at USC Student Counseling Services.

Park emphasized that not all stress is bad, and students should focus on controlling the amount of stress they feel.

“When we experience stress, the brain sends signals to the body to release stress hormones and what these hormones do is activate the flight or flight response,” Park said. “Basically, it activates the body to take some form of action and in that case how we channel that stress is more important than if we have stress.”

With short and accessible meditation sessions, Park said that apps like Calm are an easy avenue for students to decrease stress in their daily lives.

“These brief relaxation exercises really help students … to slow down and relax their bodies so they can feel more in control of themselves,” Park said. “It’s something brief, but it can make a big difference.”

The introduction of Calm is just one component of an overall push by USC to help students with their mental health. The Academic Culture Assembly’s Mental Health Month is underway, with activities and discussions planned throughout October.

Mindful USC will also be launching its own mental health app in the coming weeks, and the Counseling Center continues to offer activities and support.